JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska—The Alaska Air National Guard is assisting with Hurricane Harvey humanitarian disaster relief operations in Texas this week, taking to the skies and the waters to search for victims needing to be evacuated.
The 176th Wing deployed 14 pararescuemen and combat rescue officers from the 212th Rescue Squadron, who have teamed up with PJs from the California Air National Guard’s 129th Rescue Wing, to respond to mission taskings in Vidor, Texas today.
The Alaska pararescuemen deployed to Texas with 10 inflatable rubber boats, which were transported with them from a search and rescue staging area in Liberty to a convention center in Orange via a C-47 Chinook helicopter from the 2-149th Aviation Battalion, Texas Army National Guard, today. The pararescuemen and boats were then transported to Vidor by truck, where they conducted water search and rescue operations.
According to Lt. Col. Matthew Komatsu, 212th Rescue Squadron commander, they are there to assist civil authorities as they are needed, using their training, experience and abilities to enhance the search operation.
“The unique thing about what we bring to the fight down there is we’ve got a wide variety of rescue skillsets that we hone for combat applications, and we’ll be bringing that level of expertise to work in conjunction with civil authorities,” he said. “So that where they need us is where we’ll dial in.”
Pararescuemen have specialized medical training, which can be especially beneficial after or during a natural disaster.
“When we get to the person who needs help, we need to be able to keep them alive. So in this case, they’re going to have some highly trained medical professionals who are capable of providing medical care to anybody that they rescue out there before they can actually get evacuation to a hospital or medical treatment facility.”
The rescue teams are being tasked with missions to support the Texas National Guard and the state of Texas as ongoing storm conditions continue to inflict damage.
Pararescuemen and combat rescue officers from the 212th Rescue Squadron previously assisted with search and rescue in support of relief operations after Hurricane Katrina and the Kashmir earthquake in Pakistan in 2005, and Hurricanes Ike and Gustav in 2008.
In Alaska—where locals and visitors enjoy the outdoors, often in extreme conditions—members of the 176th Wing’s three rescue squadrons have performed more than 1,600 saves for those who have become lost or injured since 1991.